All public and private K-12 schools in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties will close for the next six weeks, under an order announced Thursday by Gov. Jay Inslee to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
All schools are required to close no later than Tuesday, March 17 and remain closed through Friday, April 24.
The Edmonds School District had already announced it was closing from Monday, March 16 until Monday, April 10, but this extends the timeline two additional weeks — to Monday, April 27.
This decision impacts 43 school districts throughout the three counties. Public health officials said they are hopeful the decision will help minimize COVID-19 exposure in Washington counties hit hardest by the virus.
Inslee said the timing will coincide with spring break for most Washington school districts.
“We do not take these decisions lightly and I am fully aware of the various impacts this has on families and communities,” Inslee said during an Olympia press conference. “Today’s decision has a full range of implications from learning plans and child care, to free and reduced-price breakfast and lunch, just to name a few. I anticipate this will cause ripple effects throughout our state. But we can’t afford not to do it. We must ensure that we slow the spread of this virus.”
Inslee said the virus in Washington has reached a tipping point where a long-term school closure is within the public health’s best and most crucial interest. Officials are seeing the number of the number of confirmed cases within the Puget Sound area double every five to seven days, and Inslee said he doesn’t expect this to slow down any time soon.
“The health and safety of our students, staff, and their families is our top priority, and the decision to close these schools is the right one. Schools and districts around the state should be contingency planning for potential closures, including planning how they will continue to provide meals and other vital services while schools are closed. We are in this together, and our strength will bring us through this trying time.”
“At this unique time, we want to keep our families safe and ensure social distancing is being practiced,” Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers said. “After speaking with our superintendents and many impacted families, Snohomish County fully supports the governor’s action. Closing schools has been shown to disrupt transmission and flatten the curve. We need consistency across the region, and these closures will give schools time to plan, ensuring our kids all have access to nutrition and instruction.”
During a previous press conference March 11, Inslee said events that take place in King, Snohomish, and Pierce counties with more than 250 people are prohibited by the state. This order applies to gatherings for social, spiritual and recreational activities. These include but are not limited to community, civic, public, leisure, faith-based, or sporting events; parades; concerts; festivals; conventions; fundraisers and similar activities.
In addition, Snohomish County’s top health official Dr. Chris Spitters Wednesday afternoon issued an order that prohibits smaller gatherings — of fewer than 250 people — “unless measures are taken by event organizers to minimize risk.”